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Claims dismissed against redistricting commission

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday that claimed the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission had violated laws when creating the current congressional district map.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain said the suit was “too broad” and violated the “short and plain statement.”

The commission was formed to redraw legislative and congressional district maps based on 2010 Census data. It is made up of five members, two from each major party and one Independent.

Some conservatives claim the new district lines were unfairly drawn to give Democrats an advantage.

Republican and Tea Party activists filed the lawsuit against the commission on April 27.

The 194-paragraph claim stated the redistricting commission failed to be transparent in its procedures or involve the public and the Legislature in its decision-making process.

Plaintiffs also pointed to the commission’s data group, which has done work for the Democratic Party, as proof that the maps were intended to benefit liberals.

The court decided not to dismiss the claim that the commission failed to open all meetings to the public.

Scott Freeman, one of the Republican members of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, said he was always on the losing end of the group’s votes.

“I did not agree with some of the decisions made by the commission, but everything needs to be voted on,” he said.

The 9th Congressional District includes parts of north Phoenix and Tempe and ends in Ahwatukee.

Freeman said this violated regulations that require the district to try and maintain municipal lines.

“Take, for example, CD-9,” he said. “One day another commissioner walked into our meeting and said he had come up with the new district, put it on a flash drive, and showed it to us.”

This leads to the allegations that important decisions were made outside the public forum.

Former state Solicitor General Mary O’Grady was one of the lawyers representing the commission.

“Each (commissioner) has their own perspective as to what map should be used, but the commission has complied with all regulations,” she said.

The plaintiffs also state that the commission’s chairman violated procedure when she created her own map at home.

Michael Liburdi, one of the lawyers representing the group who filed the suit, said a “doughnut hole” or gap in Maricopa County’s map was filled in without the input of the majority of the commission.

“The chairman went home one night and made up her own map and allowed only one other commissioner to fill up the doughnut hole,” Liburdi said.

Liburdi also called into question how much power the commission had to affect elections and how little accountability it has.

“This commission is not elected, they hold their positions for 10 years and have very little oversight,” Liburdi said. “The only thing keeping them in check is the language of the Constitution. If they don’t do that, then they are lawless.”

O’Grady said the commission members feel they have done nothing illegal in the process of creating the map.

“We do not believe the commission abandoned anything, we are comfortable in the facts of the law and in what the commission did,” O’Grady said.

The plaintiffs have until Nov. 9 to rewrite their claim to satisfy the “short and plain statement” requirement and be brought before the judge a second time.

If the plaintiffs are successful in scrapping the maps and starting over on new district lines, this could mean the end of the 9th district, Freeman said.


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